Mar 05, 2015 CANADA (SUN) Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur's English introduction to "Srimad-Gaurangalila-Smaranamangal Stotram", in eight parts.
8) Bhakti is the only means of attaining the final object of spiritual existence. Karma as it is, can not directly and immediately produce spiritual result. When it does, it does by means of Bhakti. Hence Bhakti is independent and Karma and Gyan are dependent principles. Gyan or the knowledge, that man is a spiritual being, can not directly bring the ultimate object. When it does, it does with the assistance of Bhakti. Bhakti, therefore, is the only means to obtain the ultimatum.
Bhakti is thus defined. Bhakti is cultivation of a friendly sentiment for Krishna, free from all desires other than those for its own improvements, unalloyed by such other ingredients as Karma and Gyan &c. It will be seen that Bhakti is itself both a feeling and an action. Bhakti has three stages viz sadhan bhakti, bhab bhakti, and prem-bhakti. Sadhan bhakti is that stage of culture when the feeling has not yet been roused. In Bhab bhakti the feeling awakes, and in Prem bhakti the feeling is fully set to action. Bhakti is a spiritual feeling towards the spiritual object of love. Sadhan bhakti is of two sorts, one is called the Vaidha sadhan-bhakti and the other is Raganuga sadhan-bhakti. The word Vaidha is from Vidhi or rule.
Where Bhakti is to be roused by the rule of the Shastras, there the 'Vaidhi bhakti' works as long as the feeling is not roused. Where one out of natural tendency loves Krishna, there is a principle called Rag, which is no other than a strong desire to serve the Lord of the heart. One who is tempted by the beauty of this process to follow him, has a tendency to cultivate his feeling for Krishna. This is 'Raganuga sadhan bhakti'. This latter class of Sadhan is stronger than the 'Vaidhi sadhan'. Cultivation of the friendly feeling for Krishna is performed in nine different forms.
1) To hear of the spiritual name, form, attribute and lila of Krishna.
2) To utter and sing all those.
3) To meditate on and reiterate all those.
4) Service of His Holy feet.
6) Bowing down.
7) Doing all that pleases Him.
Of all these forms Kirtan or singing the name &c of Krishna is the best. Humble knowledge is necessary in these forms of worship and fruitless discussions must be avoided. There are some who start at the theory of worshipping Srimurti! Oh they say "It is idolatory to worship 'Srimurti'! Srimurti is an idol framed by an artist and introduced by no other than Beelzebub himself. Worshipping such an object would rouse the jealousy of God and limit His omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence! We would tell them, Brethren! candidly understand the question and do not allow yourself to be misled by sectarian dogmas. God is not jealous, as he is without a second. Beelzebub or Satan is no other than an object of imagination or the subject of an allegory. An allegorical or imaginary being should not be allowed to act as an obstacle to Bhakti.
Those who believe God to be impersonal, simply identify Him with some power or attribute in nature, though in fact He is above nature, her laws and rules. His Holy wish is law and it would be sacrelege to confine His unlimited excellence by identifying Him with such attributes as omnipotence omnipresence, and omniscience,— attributes which may exist in created objects such as time, space &c. His excellence consists in having in Him mutually contradicting powers and attributes ruled by His Supernatural self. He is identical with His All-beautiful person, having such powers as omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence, the like of which can not be found elsewhere. His Holy and perfect person exists eternally in the spiritual world and at the same time existing in every created object and place in all its fulness. This idea excels all other ideas of the Deity. Mahaprabhu rejects idolatory as well, but considers Srimurti worship to be the only unexceptionable means of spiritual culture. It has been shewn that God is personal and All-beautiful. Sages like Vyas and others have seen that beauty in their soul's eye. They have left us descriptions.
Of course word carries grossness of matter. But truth still is perceivable in those descriptions. According to those descriptions one delineates a Srimurti and sees the great God of our heart there with intense pleasure! Brethren! is that wrong or sinful? Those who say that God has no form either material or spiritual and again imagine a false form for worship are certainly idolatrous. But those who see the spiritual form of the Deity in their soul's eye, carry that impression as far as possible to the mind and then frame an emblem for the satisfaction of the material eye for continual study of the higher feeling are by no means idolatrous. While seeing a 'Srimurti' do not even see the image itself but see the spiritual model of the image and you are a pure theist. Idolatory and 'Srimurti' worship are two different things; but my brethren! you simply confound one with the other out of hastiness.
To tell you the truth, Srimurti worship is the only true worship of the Deity, without which you can not sufficiently cultivate your religious feelings. The world attracts you through your senses and as long as you do not see God in the objects of your senses, you live in an awkward position which scarcely helps you in procuring you your spiritual elevation. Place a Srimurti in your house. Think that God Almighty is the guardian of the house. The food that you take is His Prasad. The flower and scents are also His Prasad. The eye, the ear, the nose, the touch and the tongue all have a spiritual culture. You do it with a holy heart and God will know it and judge you by your sincerity. Satan and Beelzebub will have nothing to do with you in that matter! All sorts of worship are based on the principle of Srimurti. Look into the history of religion and you will come to this noble truth. The Semetic idea of a patriarchal God both in the pre-christian period of Judaism and post-christian period of Christanity and Mahamadanism is nothing but a limited idea of Srimurti. The monarchic idea of a Jove amongst the Greeks and of an Indra amongst the Arian Karma-kandis is also a distant view of the same principle.
The idea of a force and Jotirmaya Brahma of the meditators and a formless energy of the Shaktas is also a very faint view of the Srimurti. In fact the principle of Srimurti is the truth itself differently exhibited in different people according to their different phases of thought. Even Jaimini and Comte who are not prepared to accept a creating God, have prescribed certain phases of the Srimurti, simply because they have been impelled by some inward action from the soul! Then again we meet with people who have adopted the Cross, the Shalgram shila, the lingam and suchlike emblems as indicators of the inward idea of Srimurti. Furthermore, if the Divine compassion, love and justice could be portrayed by the pencil and expressed by the chisel why should not the personal beauty of the Deity embracing all other attributes be portrayed in poetry or in picture or expressed by the chisel for the benefit of man? If words could impress thoughts, the watch could indicate time and sign could tell us a history, why should not the picture or figure bring associations of higher thoughts and feelings with regard to the transcendental beauty of the Divine Personage?
Srimurti worshipers are divided into two classes, the ideal and the physical. Those of the physical school are entitled from their circumstances of life and state of the mind to establish temple institutions. Those who are by circumstance and position entitled to worship the Srimurti in mind have, with due deference to the temple institutions, a tendency to worship usually by sraban and kirtan, and their church is universal and independent of caste and colour. Mahaprabhu prefers this latter class and shews their worship in his Shikshastak, printed as an appendix to this book. Worship then without intermission with a feeling of resignation and in a very short time you will be blessed with prem.
9) Prem in God is the final object of spiritual existence. The Karma-margis declare that enjoyment in this world and in the Heavens hereafter is all that a man requires. Karma or action is of two sorts i. e. Karma done with a view to obtain a material result and Karma done with a view to please God. With the Karma-margis both sorts of Karma have the object of procuring enjoyment. God is worshiped simply to grant enjoyment. Here is the line of demarkation between bhakti and karma. Bhakti aims at procuring the principle of priti or prem-bhakti as the final result of ail action; while karma aims at self-enjoyment as the ultimatum of action. The Gyan-margis on the other hand cultivate Gyan or spiritual knowledge to obtain mukti or salvation as the final aim of such cultivation.
Mukti is defined to be of two sorts. In one sort of mukti total absorption of the soul in God is effected i.e. the annihilation of the separate existence of the soul from God. In the other sort of mukti the soul stands eternally separate from God and when salvation ensues, the soul goes to 'chit-jagat' obtaining salokya or residence in the chit region of the Deity, samipya or residence closely by the Deity, sarupya or attainment of a spiritual form like that of God Himself, and sarsti or attainment of powers similar to the powers of God. The latter class of mukti is inevitable when it pleases the Almighty to grant us that state. But then after obtaining that mukti we serve God with priti or pure love. The first sort of mukti is rejected by the bhaktas as not worth taking, inconsequence of its tendency to annihilate the highest principle of love. The second class of mukti cannot be the ultimate object as it acts like an intermediate condition of the soul, priti there acting as the ultimatum.
Mukti, therefore, must be treated as an intermediate result of our spiritual disenthral-ment. Besides that a hankering after mukti spoils the action of spiritual cultivation, being a strong desire for something else than the improvement of 'Bhakti'. It has a tint of selfishness which is not in keeping with the unselfish principle of pure 'Bhakti'. We must therefore cultivate Bhakti being always free from the two contending principles i. e. a desire for 'Bhukti' or selfish enjoyment and a desire for mukti or salvation. We must depend on Krishna to give us mukti or not as it pleases Him. We must pray for continual development of our religious sentiment bhakti alone. Priti or pure love is the final object of our own existence.